“A tremendously exciting second half to an already terrific story…”
When you receive a 5-Star review from Bobby Underwood, noted author and respected reviewer of classic films whose comments have been quoted in the Saturday Evening Post, you are compelled to shout it from the rooftops. I am humbled and grateful for the time he spent to write such a lovely review.
“This wonderful book needs to be on everyone’s TBR list sooner, rather than later. Not only is it a beautiful evocation of a time in history, but an exciting narrative that belies expectations for this genre. I had to think long and hard about how to adequately describe what a wonderful read Bridge of Sighs and Dreams is, and all I can say is this:
If David Dodge, Martha Albrand, and Sidney Sheldon had ever gotten together to write a novel in this genre, it might read something like this. It has the swiftly moving, natural narrative style of Dodge, and the page-turning drama of Sidney Sheldon at his zenith. More importantly, it has that Martha Albrand template of telling a huge story on a smaller canvas, giving it intimacy and vibrancy. It’s rare when a book that falls into the historical fiction category is this utterly entertaining, and alive with so much movement. It grabs the reader right from the harrowing opening moments in Southern Italy, 1938, and an act of brutality by Mussolini’s Blackshirts which will shape Angelina’s life.
“There are times when those of us who are the least political become the most involved. War changes everything.” — Signor Biasi
The narrative which ensues is deceptively easy reading, like David Dodge’s storytelling. Like a painting by one of the old Dutch Masters, however, perhaps Vermeer, layers upon layers are meticulously added by the author until a rich and evocative portrait of Italy occupied by the Germans in WWII emerges. At around the twenty-percent mark, the reader is finding the novel to be a quick and lively read. By the halfway point, the events transpiring have become so incredibly exciting, the reader is unable to turn away. The rich and colorful picture emerging from all the applied layers is so involving we have to keep staring — or rather turning pages — until we have the entire picture. That isn’t hyperbole, it’s an honest evaluation of just how good I think this is. If you’re the type of reader intrigued by the book description, the synopsis, but are afraid you’ll be disappointed, don’t be. This isn’t boring, or dry, nor is it bloated or padded. It is a great story, excitingly and tenderly told.
There are two very different women at the heart of this engaging novel. One you will love, one you will loathe. Stories of war and occupation are best told from the viewpoint of the people, and that is what the author has done. Angelina, Lidia, their husbands, Pietro and Aldo, their children and friends. The Italian Resistance in German occupied Rome. The betrayers and the betrayed. Hope and despair, and the resiliency of the human spirit shining through. Not all Germans are shown to be bad. Many, like Karl, hang fiercely to their humanity in the face of war. Nor were all Italians good. Some collaborated with German forces out of greed, like Lidia, one of the most shallow and deceitful human beings you’re likely to ever run across between the covers of a book.
“I can’t put into words the pain in my heart knowing that this and other atrocities I have witnessed have been carried out by citizens of my homeland.” — Karl
As Angelina is swept up in war, and the machinations of the sister-in-law from Hades, we are swept up in it along with her, seeing the brutality and retaliations by the Germans. We also see the absurdity of war, as in the pounding of Italy by the Americans. It was necessary to liberate the country, yet caused great damage and fear. If anything, this book spotlights the terrible price the citizens of all countries pay for so dearly, when countries go to war — even when it is absolutely necessary. Were I to list all the events and years this novel covers, it would sound sweeping. Yet Bridge of Sighs and Dreams is told so wonderfully, with such an intimacy, there are times when we feel like we’re reading an exciting Sidney Sheldon novel — if he’d ever gotten all serious on us. Just terrific stuff here, with lives we care about in doubt, and some intriguing twists the deeper we get into the war.
A tremendously exciting second half to an already terrific story, in conjunction with an ending that satisfies in every way possible, make this the best novel I’ve read in quite awhile. If there is any caveat, it might be the obliviousness to Lidia’s manipulations by everyone around her, until it’s too late for some. It does make the first portion feel a bit more soapy than it should, but with each layer the author adds to the small canvas on which she’s chosen to tell this sweeping story, it gets better and better. At one point, you just want to crawl into the pages and throttle Lidia yourself. And likewise, you’re on the edge of your seat for Angelina, anxious for everything to turn out alright, even in the darkest moments.
“He was a gentle boy whose sense of decency became too much for him to bear in this hellish war. I pray his compassionate soul is finally at peace.” — Karl
If you’re like me, and lament that so much historical fiction is dry and boring, then read this. Seriously, this is fabulous stuff, and deserves to be moved up on your TBR list if you already have it on there. And if you don’t, then it needs to be there, and soon. My highest recommendation.
I knew it had to be tricky business keeping the fast narrative flow to Bridge of Sighs and Dreams, considering the period, which is why it was so impressive. It just swept along like a river, never slowing, yet allowing the reader to see peripherally the war, the events going on, from a smaller perspective, the lives of Angelina and her daughter. Hawthorne said that easy reading was *&%#* hard writing, so whenever I read something that has that kind of movement and pacing, while still giving the reader everything they want and need emotionally, to be involved in the story, I know all the sweat and hours that went into that for the writer. Terrific stuff that deserves to be read by a wider audience.”
BRIDGE OF SIGHS AND DREAMS is available for purchase in paperback and eBook at:
BARNES & NOBLE: